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Honoring nostalgia: 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' hype

"Avatar: The Last Airbender" has resurfaced as a popular show after it was added to Netflix in the United States during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown.  – Photo by Twitter

"Avatar: The Last Airbender" (ATLA), a childhood favorite of so many, myself included, came to Netflix this summer in the United States. Since then, it’s taken over the internet again as old fans and new ones discover all the Avatar universe has to offer.

If you haven’t been online and have missed all the hype, here’s what it is all about: a 12-year-old boy is Avatar, a person capable of bending or controlling all four elements: water, earth, fire and air. He goes on a journey with two siblings from the water tribe, one of whom is a waterbender, to master all of the elements and restore peace to the universe. 

There are a lot of obvious reasons why the show recently became popular again, and all signs point to people having little to do with their free time considering how we’re stuck at home. But is that the only thing that sparked this "Avatar Renaissance,” as some people online are discussing? 

First, I think the animation and soundtrack are another two clear reasons why people are so invested in this show. The animation improves greatly as the series goes on, but from the start, it captures the viewers’ attention.

Not to mention the soundtrack — full of bangers, might I add — that only adds to the visual appeal. The illustration combined with the music forms a truly immersive experience. It makes you feel like you’re really there, in this magical world on an adventure instead of staring at your Netflix screen for 10 hours.

The storyline of ATLA sets it apart from many others. The concept is creative and based on the cultural history of many places around Asia. It’s interesting to learn about the four elements and their history, as well as the different nations. The worldbuilding is complex and detailed, which adds to the immersion of the series. 

Despite the amazing worldbuilding, arguably the best part is the characters and their compelling back stories. Each character grows immensely from the beginning to the end and we get to see it all.

They each get stronger and form important relationships that move the plot forward in a believable and captivating way. One of the best character arcs is that of Prince Zuko. Honestly, it’s probably the most engaging character arcs I’ve ever seen on television in general.

A lot of adults have taken to ATLA. I think a certain amount of this has to do with nostalgia and the fact that many of us grew up with this show. But I myself have rewatched it years ago, and multiple times since, making me believe that so much more goes into the appeal of this show.

I find it comforting to see a world with so many relatable characters, making it easy to see yourself in any one of them. The aesthetic is calming and the one-liners are funny, which makes it an easy watch or a good pick-me-up. To a certain degree, it’s comforting to watch something where you know what will happen. Still, I think there’s more to it. 

Personally, I think it’s a big hit because of the themes explored in the show and the degree to which the audience can connect with the piece. The show discusses war, imperialism, mental health, familial relationships, abuse, love, spirituality, post traumatic stress disorder and more.

These topics may be discussed in what is labelled a “kids show,” but it’s clear these can be very intense themes. The characters also deal with a lot of complicated issues and internal struggles. It’s easy to relate the content to real world issues and experiences. This is one of the biggest reasons I think many older people resonate with the show and find it worth watching. 

The show has gotten extremely popular online once again, and fans have been making hilarious and impressive content dedicated to the series.

If you haven’t seen ATLA, I highly recommend watching it. The storyline is exciting and heart wrenching all at once. It’s the perfect feel-good show when you need some extra serotonin or want to go on an adventure without leaving your couch. 


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